We All Started Somewhere

We all started somewhere.

Walking the pagan path may be a family way-of-life for more people today, but back in the 1990s and early 2000s it was a personal choice. You had to find your way home, often with minimal guidance and a lot of luck.

This is my story of “coming home”.

Living in California during the mid-90s, I was really into magic. Sabrina the Teenage Witch was my thing, The Craft (movie) came out, and Harry Potter was soon unleashed upon us all. I enjoyed writing little rhyming spells, LARPing with friends (not that we called it that at the time), and mixing rainwater into potions for fun.

In 1999, I was a middle school student in Kentucky. A high school girl who spoke to me from time to time at the bus stop mentioned this book she’d found in the school library. It was “Wicca” by Scott Cunningham, and it spoke to me from the first line. I self-dedicated within a week.

My parents weren’t religious, so I managed to avoid that drama. Instead, I enjoyed going to my friend’s youth group meetings while simultaneously praying to the Lord and Lady at night. There were a couple of books at the public library (under 133 in the Dewey decimal system, I recall). The only one directly related to the growing pagan movement was “Spells” by Matthew Green. I almost memorized the book cover to cover, though it was full of witchcraft (i.e. spells and charms) rather than Wicca (the spiritual practices).

I faced little issue as a Wiccan in my early years. In high school, I had a couple of friends who weren’t allowed to have my over anymore after I was discovered to be a witch. It hurt, because no one had ever disliked me before; I didn’t understand why I was the perfect influence as a straight-A student with perfect attendance one minute, the devil’s minion the next. That seemed… silly. I hadn’t stopped being a good student or well behaved all of a sudden, but you’d think I’d taken up smoking pot or drinking by the way their parents reacted sometimes.

I found myself fascinated by every little piece of paganism I ran across back then. I didn’t have internet at home, just a computer with Windows 1994 that I used to write and play Tetris for hours. If a friend printed out a copy of some spell or ritual for me, I cherished it; who knew when I’d get to see something new again. I even snuck a chance to print the long version of the Wiccan Rede poem while at my dad’s office one day; he was mad, because that crap was printed under his login and blah blah blah.

For a while, I had about 95% of the Wiccan Rede poem memorized by wrot, largely due to rewriting it over and over for myself in notebooks and on new copies for friends. Not having a printer meant handcopying everything I wanted to keep for myself, which made me willing to admit the brilliance of “ancient” practices like forcing a new coven member to handcopy the coven’s BOS themselves.

Anyway, I ended up teaching various people along the way. They were curious, mostly, and I don’t think more than one or two of the dozen actually remained pagan after experimenting with me. It’s not for everyone.

At the start of the new millenium, we moved to Germany (Army life, yay). I became more solidly pagan when surrounded by the gloriously weird people of my high school. I taught a few more people, led and joined teenage circles for moons and sabbats on a regular basis. I wrote my own rituals, with all the bells and whistles. I danced in a circle until the energy crackling across everyone’s skin and made us moondrunk. It was beautiful.

Coming stateside again was hard, because we moved to El Paso, Texas. Catholics, everywhere. I returned mostly to my little broom closet, but it was more an act of antisocial behavior than any real attempt to keep a secret. I tried out a local pagan CUUPS group, but they were too anti-Christian for me. I found a pagan-ish store that sold incense, herbs, and candles. I waited.

I got married and moved to Germany again (Army life, round two). My then-husband switched from Christianity to paganism for me, without my request and of his own free will. That didn’t go well. I didn’t do much in the way of practicing, because I was a new adult dealing with a new marriage, deployment, and the adjustment of living overseas once again.

I got divorced, returning to Texas to start over. There’s a lot of life drama in between there, but it had little to do with my spirituality (other than remembering I didn’t believe in cursing or hexing others just for being jerks). Once life settled down, I found a local coven and joined.

I learned, and I grew. I initiated, and I taught. I led rituals, and I helped others lead. I left for a while, disillusioned by circumstances I couldn’t control. I returned, ready to wipe the slate clean and try again. And I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.

And now I’m turning 29 in February. It’s been 16 years since I started down the pagan path, about two decades since the interest in magic and nature budded in my heart. I’ve never left my path, not completely. I’ve taken breaks where I didn’t do much in the way of practice outside of the occasional candle or prayer. But all in all, I came home to the gods and stayed.

As I research my move to Washington for the spring, I’ve discovered that the most abundant members of the local pagan community are 16-18 years old and full of spunk. At first, I wanted to roll my eyes as I saw a 17-year-old boy starting up a coven in the small town I used to visit during the summers. But then I remembered…

At age 8, no one would’ve considered the choosing of a pagan path as valid or mentioned it to a girl with leaves in her hair and flowers in her heart. At age 12 when I dedicated, I would’ve still been seen as too young to be taken seriously as a follower of anything, old gods or new. At age 16, the very thought that I bothered to try teaching others about a path I’d barely walked would’ve been laughable. At age 21 when I initiated, I still recognized the way my youth could and sometimes did make it hard for older pagans to take me seriously.

I have to remember those times. *We* have to remember those times.


Because a person’s age isn’t all about the number of years they’ve lived in this particular body. Because they can be wiser and more spiritual than the oldest members of our community, sometimes. Because they can be lost and hurt by our lack of faith in their budding spirituality. Because it isn’t our place to judge the path another person chooses to walk.

I repeat: It isn’t your place to judge the path another person chooses to walk.

We all started somewhere.

Mental Exercise: the “Ideal Lover/Partner/Friend”

I’m in a mood.

(I wonder how many of my journal entries start off with that sentence so far this year?)

I remember a project in my Sociology class back in my sophomore year of high school. We were told to make a list of at least five attributes we required of a potential mate/partner/lover. Snickering and blushing aside, everyone did the assignment and had the pleasure of reading their list out loud to the rest of the class. We discussed the whys and wherefores of each person’s list as we went.

My list had about thirty items on it. I had the longest one in my class, but I also had a boyfriend (contrary to claims that I was too picky and would be forever alone). The thing is, I’d focused on non-physical things. Someone who had a good sense of humor. Someone who was around my level of intelligence. Someone who enjoyed the rain. Someone who liked animals.

It was cute.

Now, though, I’m thinking that the list needs to be resurrected. If you created a list of thirty or so criteria, and then you only required a potential partner to meet about ten of them… that’s reasonable, right?

Let me approach that from a different direction.

I’ve never been in a relationship with someone who’s owned enough books to fill a bookcase. Why not? I’m an avid reader, from news articles to fanfiction to novels to blogs. I probably spend a third of my awake time reading in some way or another. And I’ve owned at least enough books to fill a large bookcase to the brim since I hit high school. Yet I’ve managed to ignore the fact that everyone that I’ve started a relationship with has been a non-reader. Some of them just didn’t enjoy reading outside of school assignments or a signal series (like *only* Harry Potter or *only* the Wheel of Time). One read comics with some regularity, but even that’s a limited form of reading. I’ve never been with someone who could recommend a good book they’d just finished (or actually listen when I recommend one based on their likes).

It makes no sense!

My approach to relationships has always been very… loosey goosey. If someone likes me, why should I judge them? If they’re willing to bother showing me attention, who am I to not accept it graciously? I’ll willfully overlook the lack of commonality between myself and a new partner, if it means I can avoid rocking the (new, unfamiliar) boat. I bend so we don’t break.

Bugger that!

I’m in a unique situation now. I’m a polyamorous demisexual married to an asexual in a partly open relationship. That means I’m allowed to date and get to know people, to eventually find someone I connect with emotionally to become my lover (that’s the demi part, FYI). Put simpler, I’ll be dating from my friendzone. So… why not alter my “ideal mate” list to that of an ideal friend?

Playing with this idea has entertained me all day. While a bit silly, the exercise itself has allowed me to recognize how many ways I’ve failed myself in expecting almost nothing from those I allow closest to me. I deserve better, from myself and from others. That said, here’s a peek at the things I came up with. Keep in mind, a person would only need to meet about ten of the points to be “up to par”. Hell, even five solid matches would make them more compatible than any of my serious relationships; believe me, I’ve checked. (And that was depressing, to realize how little my partners matched the attributes of my close friends… no wonder we failed so spectacularly!)

– They own an impressive library, at least a bookcase worth. And they actually read the books, rather than keeping them for show. A mix of fiction and nonfiction is a bonus. I need someone who’ll enjoy a trip to a bargain bookstore for a couple of hours, walking out with an armful of purchases with me.

– They write. It can be poetry or blogging, fiction or nonfiction. Perfect grammar and spelling aren’t necessary, but a command of the English language beyond that of a middle schooler is a must. Really, writing well enough to avoid making me cringe would be impressive.

– They are at least partly college educated. I’ve settled for less before, and I shouldn’t. While I’m not particularly pro-college, I do believe that having knowledge beyond a GED is important. If they can explain the intricacies of Japanese culture thanks to personal interest after a semester of the language in college, I’ll be impressed by their personal studies and depth of knowledge. Feeling like I’m walking on eggshells to avoid talking down to people is *not* fun.

– They’re pagan. Not a generic, hippy-is-cool pagan. I mean someone who’s studied various paths and knows where they’re currently walking. If we can debate the merits and downfalls of hard polytheism, they’re my kind of person.

– They’re LGBTQIA+ savvy and an ally at minimum. This one is actually non-negotiable. They don’t have to know all the buzzwords or be a perfect ally, but homophobia is distinctly *not* sexy.

– They enjoy trying out new foods, without whining and being bullied into it. I’m decidedly not a steak-and-potatoes girl, so I need someone adventurous in the kitchen.

– Speaking of the kitchen, they should know their way around it by now. If I ask for them to dice an onion or start some water for spaghetti, I shouldn’t have to explain exactly what that means. We’re too old for ramen-and-eggs cooking skills to be acceptable anymore!

– They’re a geek. Pick a fandom and run with it (the more, the merrier). Bonus points for Harry Potter, Marvel, Doctor Who, Sherlock, or Supernatural. Extra bonus points if they get my references outside of their personal fandoms.

– They need to be financially sound on their own. This is another almost non-negotiable point. I’m tired of being an accountant in my relationships, fixing poor life decisions and bad credit. They don’t have to be rich or an investment genius; I just want someone who manages their own money with half a brain.

– They like animals, especially dogs. Animals tend to be a good judge of character, and I intend to always have dogs in my life. If they can’t stand animals or barely tolerate them, it’d get old pretty fast.

– Hygiene. I’m shocked by the amount of bad hygiene I’ve ignored in favor of not rocking the boat. That needs to stop!

– They could be really into anime. My wife is anime fanatic, so she’d be the best judge of their seriousness. I enjoy a bit of anime now and again, and it’s a type of geekery that meshes well with me and mine.

– They’re creative, for real. I’d like to not have to smile and lie when shown their art, be it painting or drawing or writing or singing. Let them have a talent of their own, one I can truly enjoy. Let them embrace and practice their art as often as I practice my own.

– They play an instrument. Guitars and drums are my favorites, but people who can sincerely play any instrument impress me. Having learned basics on the clarinet and guitar, I recognize the passion and drive it takes to practice enough to gain those talents.

– They like to stay in rather than go out. I like to get out and about sometimes, but I’m more of a cafe-date-for-coffee girl than a drink-and-party girl. I’m too old to enjoy that crap anymore, and I find those who still enjoy getting blitzed are generally too immature for me.

– They should be a civilian. I grew up around the military, married and divorced it, and work with it daily. I’d like to get away from all of that, because I want stability. It’s nothing against those who serve; I just don’t want to start something to a person who will move in 3-5 years for their next assignment.

– They should enjoy a good snog without sex. Look, TMI. I get it. But even if I’m a full blown adult, I happen to enjoy the process of kissing someone senseless (and visa versa). I don’t always want sex, and I’d like to find someone who’s similarly minded. Sometimes getting wound up is the fun part!

– They need to have experience or knowledge of polyamory and/or open relationship dynamics. If they don’t know something, they need to be willing to ask. I’m not looking to replace my wife. I’m also not looking for a quick shag. Communication is key, and understanding its importance goes a long way in showing serious interest in being in my life.

– They’ve traveled. I’ve lived in three different parts of Germany, visited the Czech Republic and Canada along with half of the States. Staying in the same town your entire life leads to a different mindset, one I don’t relate to well. I don’t need someone super well-traveled, but it’d help if they’ve been around their state at least a bit.

– They don’t live with their parents. I get that it happens, especially with today’s economy. But around 30, the excuses get weaker. Personal experience says that a person who really wants to make it on their own tends to crash with multiple roommates and pools their resources, rather than moving into mom’s house.

– They’re employed, and it’s steady. They also can’t bitch every single day about their job, because that level of hatred usually leads to layoffs, firing, or quitting (i.e. job instability). Adults recognize that we have to put up with a certain level of stuff to get/keep a good paying job. If it’s too horrible to bear without griping, an adult seeks new employment. Personal experience has demonstrated this fact over and over amongst lovers and friends.

– They have no child, nor do they want any (at least for now). I’ve moved past any desire to reproduce, and I don’t want to become a parent vicariously through a lover.

I could go on. I’m a rambler and a listmaker. These kinds of exercises can keep me going for hours, even as I get weirder and more specific with the new points I come up with. The whole point of this list, though, is to remind myself that I’m allowed to expect something more out of people I let into my life (both lovers and friends). I can expect maturity as we all approach our thirties, and I don’t have to tolerate willful ignorance or spiritually stunted individuals.

I’m allowed to say “no”. I can be picky about the types of people I allow into my life, and I can remove those who do me more harm than good. It’s all my choice.

Living in Stasis

I’m currently living my life in stasis. 

I have about five months until I move from Texas to Washington, and so much of my day-to-day life is measured in waiting. 

I’ve done things, though. I’ve cut ties where it was necessary, purging my life of hurtful influences. I got married again, to my best friend and truest love; my wife is a greater support system than anything or anyone else could hope to be. Our old lease ended (finally), so we’ve moved in with the in-laws to save money before we leave. I managed to shrink down the entirety of my life, sharing a couple dozen small boxes with my wife. 

My writing goal has stayed mostly on target, in private. I’ve continued journaling to myself, being completely and almost painfully open about my thoughts and feelings. I’ve also been working on a fanfiction, and that project will reach its conclusion in a week or so. Having purchased an iPad, I find myself more ready and willing to write. The creative bug has bitten me, and I’m cautiously optimistic about getting involved with my own original fiction once again.

Careful management of my depression and anxiety has made it relatively easy to function 90% of the time. I have occasional relapses into that not-so-good headspace, but I remember to reach out and ask for help when I get there. The brutally honest journaling helps, because I know no one will judge me for those unseen words. It’s like talking to a silent therapist; I talk out my problems on the screen and circle them until I feel better or sometimes even solve them. 

Still, daily life is all about work, reading, writing, and sleep. I don’t socialize, nor do I spend much time actively doing anything outside of the house. 

As I said, I live in stasis.

On not truly being a “peaceful person”

I am an agent of peace, but I am not a peaceful person at heart.

You see my patience. I calmly explain things to someone, things they’ve been told before. I give second, third, and fourth chances to people who ask for them. I allow things to slide, things you might find hurtful or frustrating or infuriating.

You don’t see my violence. It’s in the way my jaw clenches when I have to repeat myself (again), the way I consciously unclench it and force my voice to remain level. It’s in the way each lie and misstep is filed away in my mind, the way those chances I give are laced with mistrust. It’s in the way I swallow pride and anger together, the way I allow words to wash over and away from me without reaction when a reaction is what they want.

I am an agent of kindness, but I am not a kind person at heart.

You see my gentleness. I accept new people into my life when they enter the lives of those who matter to me. I brush off discomfort and social awkwardness to make others feel welcomed. I speak up for giving people chances, even people who I wouldn’t be friends with outside of whatever specific situation we find ourselves in.

You don’t see my ruthlessness. It’s in the way I watch new people like a hawk, recording every mistake and bad choice in case they need to be sent away. It’s in the way I question everything about a new person, my guard always up even as I hug them close. Why would I trust someone who isn’t mine, who wasn’t brought into my life by my own choosing? It’s in the way I knowingly allow others to try and fail at life, rather than stepping in with guidance and support to get them through hard times. Sometimes I take great pleasure in someone’s failure, even as I help them stand back up.

I am an agent of calm, but I am not a calm person at heart.

You see my serenity. My voice and mind are so quiet and still, my ears open and listening to other’s opinions before making my own. I sit to myself and seem at ease, my eyes skimming a book or my phone or even the crowds around me. I hum along with the radio and let traffic just be traffic, steadily making my way to my destination without issue.

You don’t see my anxiety. I judge others on their opinions, and sometimes my silence is less about listening and more about deciding if they’re worth speaking to at all. The quiet ease I show is often a mask, as inside I’m screaming and aching or empty and lost; my depression is quiet, too, you know. My fingers tell everything to my journal, every honest and hateful thought; I filter nothing from myself, and the words I write are drenched in loathing. I move from place to place and goal to goal with very direct intent, and my decision to flow with and around life’s “traffic” is the reason I get what I want more often than not; people do my will long before they realize I want it done.

I am an agent of darkness. We all are.

I used to be so frustrated with myself. I thought I was broken, that something in me was violent and feral and nothing like my mother’s groundedness. I thought my actions meant nothing when my feelings and thoughts were so dark and negative. It took years to recognize that the choice of peace and kindness over anger and violence wasn’t meant to be easy. The good in me is the desire to continue choosing peace, to continue making the harder decision to be kind, to continue walking softly through this life. Making a choice to be peaceful when it goes against gut reactions is “being the bigger person”, struggling for maturity when instinct screams for anything but.

180,000 Words to the Void + this post

I have been a horrible blogger, but a great writer this year.

Since 2015 started, I’ve managed to write approximately 180,000 words. It all started with a goal of just a thousand words per day. I figured if I could start a real writing habit up, maybe I could get around to writing something worth sharing.

At first, it was a struggle. I’m used to self-filtering before my words tap across the keyboard; so much of my personal journals is left unsaid, because I never wanted to record the embarrassing or negative things with too much detail.

Eventually, I opened up to the honesty I was offering for myself. I promised myself that I could write *any* without guilt, because I would be the only person to see it in its original form.

The floodgates opened, and the words came flowing out of me.

I’ve started two stories, meatier than anything fiction I’ve written in years. One has around 7,000 words to it so far (mostly outline and character descriptions), and the other has around 25,000 words (including character descriptions, an outline, and several scenes so far). I say these stories are both meatier than my previous fiction attempts for a reason. They have depth. Instead of being two-dimentional attempts at a fairytale, these stories and their characters can stood up and made themselves into something. Characters told me who they wanted to be, rather than me filling in all of the blanks myself.

It feels… amazing.

Added to that, about half of the remaining words I’ve written this year are related to my spirituality. I’ve been brutally honest with myself and my thoughts, and I’ve explored deeper into my hopes and future plans than I have in ages. My own journaling has given me the ability to understand myself and voice my needs to my coven and high priestess; it’s helped me to seek out challenges I might’ve ignored before, like offering to teach classes and lead rituals without them filling any special requirements for elevation.

You haven’t really gotten to see any of this. I’ve been hiding in my little writing cave, typing away without any effort to update or share on my blog beyond an occasional “yeah, I’m still alive” post.

I’m working on things, I swear.

Due to health reasons, I never got around to being comfortable on camera and starting a YouTube channel. My skin was (and partly still is) a hot mess and a long story at that. In place of a YouTube channel (or in place of a live-action me, I should say), I’ve been exploring the possibility of doing a podcast. I don’t mind people listening to me; the speaking-for-others part isn’t the issue. This is a newer idea that I’m working on figuring out; right now, it’s a rough draft of a rough draft of an idea.

I’ve also been working on a pagan book. I’ve been using my coven’s beginner-level notes to kind of guide my outline. In the process, I’ve actually been updating the coven notes as well, but that’s a different project all together. In approaching the topics (like energywork, divination, and tools) from a teaching standpoint instead of as just a student, I’m seeing what I like and what I would change more clearly. As an initiate, I’ve considered making these notes (once updated) into my outline for a book… and then making that a personal challenge to complete. We’re all about pushing ourselves and growing into our potentials, and this feels like the right direction.

Through everything, I’m still working fulltime and trying to manage a household of adults (like herding cats AND dogs together). I’m also working on plans for moving up north to Washington state next spring. It takes a lot of planning these days to fling yourself so far from your current home; you can’t expect to just pop up, find a job and an apartment in a week or two, and get to living. Unfortunately, there are fewer jobs, a higher cost of living, and very little support if you fail to plan ahead. Good thing I’m a planner, huh!

I appreciate anyone who’s bothered to stick around and read my occasional posts. Sometimes the internet is a giant void and my words just a whisper, but it’s nice to know someone hears me time and again.

Until next time, keep breathing.

Blurred Lines – my personal gripes with Cultural Appropriation (and how I found answers)

I have a real issue with the idea of Cultural Appropriation.

I’m a white American girl with a muddled (mutt) bloodline and no family culture of my own to work within as a pagan. Too often, discussions of cultural appropriation feel uncomfortable to me. For the longest time, I’ve been uncomfortable with that discomfort, because I couldn’t place where it originated from… until yesterday.

I had an “ah ha!” moment.

The reason I don’t like the idea of cultural appropriation is due to the lack of boundaries. When I ask questions to try and determine what is and isn’t cultural appropriation, the best anyone can answer is “well, if you aren’t [fill in a culture name here], then don’t use their stuff”. That’s great… except it’s not. How does that help me to determine if my use of a practice like smudging is valid spiritual expression or lazy cultural appropriation?

Unclear lines to cross (or not cross) make for a huge discomfort in learning new practices. As someone familiar with the privileges being white can afford me, I feel hampered from spiritual exploration by my own desire not to commit an apparent cardinal sin of paganism and appropriate random things from someone else. Without clear direction, I instead get to try new things in private or not at all.

The “ah ha!” moment came to me yesterday while researching and contemplating reconstructionist Greco-Roman religion versus standard Wiccan-flavored paganism*[see footnote]. I finally found the elusive lines between respectful cultural adaptation and cultural appropriation.

Look at the Greek gods. In the ancient religion and its modern reconstruction, Hestia is honored first and last at every ritual. Solitary home practitioners are told to at least light a candle to Her before anything else is done. Hestia is the keeper of the Sacred Flame, the spark of life itself. All of the gods respect Her, so it is fully accepted (and expected) that your first words and offerings be given to Her.

Now look at a modern Wiccan-flavored pagan ritual. Tradition dictates that you call a god and a goddess for most rituals, though moon rituals (esbats) give more leeway in calling just a goddess. If a coven decides to stick with Greek gods, they may choose Zeus and Hera to call into the circle; after all, they are the King and Queen of the Gods. However, that same coven is very likely to call only Zeus and Hera. The altar may have a candle for each, as well as some image or statue. But… the likelihood of Hestia also being represented is actually pretty small.

Modern paganism doesn’t require you to follow the old ways of deity worship. It’s seen as acceptable to research a deity and then work with them alone. No one questions why someone might work with Apollo and ignore his sister Artemis and mother Leto, even though their mythology is very intertwined and nearly impossible to disassociate as a pair or group. It’s not weird to most modern pagans for you to say you work with Artemis because She called to you, yet you don’t interact with anyone else from Her pantheon.

In a way, large portions of how Wiccan-flavored paganism approaches deity worship can be seen as cultural appropriation.

The Greek culture and religion that those deities come from is alive, which means you’re borrowing from an active thing. When doing so, you should be doing enough research to know about Hestia being first and last in all things; even reading through one or two decent sources would tell you that! Choosing to skip her and work with Zeus and Hera alone, then, is purposefully ignoring the cultural and spiritual importance of Hestia to make use of other gods. It’s about convenience, not belief.

However, the line becomes more flexible in certain situations. If you are the type of pagan who believes ALL goddesses are faces of the Goddess, and ALL gods are faces of the God, and ALL gods are One… then your decision to borrow Zeus and Hera is based in your spiritual belief that they only exist as faces of the same thing; you aren’t appropriating them, so much as you are using them in accordance to your non-belief in hard polytheism.

Likewise, doing a meditation in a suana isn’t appropriation of a sweat lodge. Sure, you are using incense and steam to relax and cleanse your body and spirit. However, the idea of meditation is found in many cultures. By calling it a suana meditation and working to connect your Higher Self rather than a deity or spirit guide, you are specifically using the “universal remote” or generally applicable pieces of a sweat lodge without appropriating the full Native American ritual.

See the lines I’ve found?

  • If you know what you’re doing and why, then you aren’t culturally appropriating.
  • If your core beliefs create a place where the thing you’re doing is standard and applied to all related practices, then you aren’t culturally appropriating.
  • If you strip down a cultural idea and use the structural framework (i.e. things that all people, regardless of culture, can relate to) to develop something unique, then you aren’t culturally appropriating.

But… if you just take a thing that “sounds cool” and do very little research into what it’s actually for or about, you ARE culturally appropriating in the laziest way. It’s disrespectful to the gods and yourself.

A final guideline: If it doesn’t feel right, you shouldn’t use it. If you feel bad using a thing, examine why you feel that way. Are you honestly sure of your intent? Remember that, in magic, intent is key to everything.

* On Wiccan-flavored paganism: I use this phrase to refer to the modern, New Age paganism movement as a whole. Look in the New Age or Metaphysics section of any bookstore, and you’ll see the same kind of magickal and ritual practice over and over. God and goddess duality, elemental correspondences, altar setup and tools, and so forth. These are all done in generally the same way, with minor variations between traditions and authors. Most non-reconstructionist, non-tradition-based pagans will end up practicing something related to the Wiccan style of ritual, mostly because of its prevelance in the resources a solitary pagan has access to.

An additional note: I am personally guilty of working with deities without doing research into their pantheon, though this has happened most often in group rituals I have little or no control over. The Celtic, Welsh, and/or Gaelic pantheons (I can’t tell the difference due to lack of study) have been present in my coven’s rituals; similarly, I’ve stood in circle while someone called Loa to attend a Samhain ritual via a horse (someone prepared to be “ridden” or purposefully possessed for a short time). I point this out to remind you that no one is perfect, and most offenders aren’t aiming to be offensive. Sometimes you have no control over the ritual at hand, but when you do… try to be fully prepared and respectful of the ideas, practices, and deities you’re including in your circle.

Proudly Oathbound

The new moon of February is here, and it’s a special time. This is the time when, each year, members of my tradition retake their oaths. In my case, that means retaking both my Dedicant and First Degree oaths.

We do this as a reminder. The oaths you make along your path are important, and refreshing them annually reminds you of where you’ve come from, where you’re going, and why you’re traveling in that general direction. It lets you review your path and make changes if you’ve gotten stuck in a rut.

I realized several years ago just how seriously I take oaths, without meaning to do so on a conscious level. When I take an oath (be it a personal dedication to a goddess, a coven oath, or a marriage vow), my spirit takes in the words and treats them almost like the Aes Sedai’s oaths made on the Oath Rod; as they’re sealed onto the women themselves, so my oaths are bound to me.

[[FYI, that’s a Wheel of Time reference… probably one of the only ones I’ll make in my life.]]

Sure, I’m technically capable of ignoring an oath deliberately or accidentally. It’s physically possible for my to actively chose to ignore them. However, I just don’t. Period.

When I left my coven a few years ago, I could’ve stayed within our tradition as an initiate. However, my oaths included a promise not to teach those who were not prepared properly. For me, that meant that teaching my roommate or writing a book that could potentially teach anyone both bent that oath to breaking; it felt wrong in that context, as an oathbound initiate of a tradition. The only solution was to leave the tradition entirely, removing all oaths in the process.

Having returned a year ago to my tradition and coven, I still take my oaths as seriously as I did back then. I feel them in my bones, and they never fail to float through my mind when I consider the same things (teaching a friend, writing a book, and so forth). The difference is that, as someone seeking eventual leadership within our tradition and the pagan community at large, I know I can approach my Elders and ask for guidance regarding any projects or lessons I might want to start. I can verify that my oaths allow my actions, and I can keep my honor intact.

[[Now I’m sounding more like the Aiel. AAHHH! I haven’t read those books since the first time,]. No, seriously! Some things just stick with you, I guess…]]

Actually, this reflects my studies on Asatru and other Norse traditions; in those cultures, your honor is passed down from your ancestors and kept pristine by your honorable behavior. Breaking an oath is dishonorable, the same way breaking a promise during childhood was a betrayal of trust. Neither situation can be easily remedied, because trust and honor can’t be instantly repaired; they will always hold a residue of memory from the breaking.

As I retake my oaths tonight, standing in circle of my own free will, it will serve as a reminder that I am a child of the gods, a seeker, a student and a teacher, and above all else…

I am proudly oathbound.